• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"Webster's view of the world is utterly bleak." Use your knowledge of three specific episodes in 'The Duchess of Malfi' to discuss this statement.

Extracts from this document...


"Webster's view of the world is utterly bleak." Use your knowledge of three specific episodes in 'The Duchess of Malfi' to discuss this statement. Like other tragedies, 'The Duchess of Malfi' is abundant in exploring darker and more unpleasant elements such as death and murder. Additionally, Webster portrays a variety of these themes including secrecy, deceit, and the general corruption of society; these are contrasted with themes such as love, honesty and courage, and thus all of the elements are highlighted as they complement each other. Webster's view of the world may be considered as "utterly bleak" on account of this wide variety of negative themes which are powerful enough on their own, and how they all contribute to the destruction of the little good that there is in Malfi. Moreover, the language and actions carried out by many of the characters are particularly graphic and at some times even morbid and unnerving. It has often been said that Webster uses Bosola as the narrator to the audience; a commentator giving his opinion on certain situations and his view of the world as a whole. This can be seen through his frequent descriptions of what he sees as the deeper meaning of the situations that are occurring on the surface. ...read more.


For example, Bosola is revealed by Delio as "a fellow seven years in the galleys for a notorious murder", making him appear as an evil character that is capable of murder. Bosola's negative and cynical character is further reinforced by the way in which he speaks: "He and his brother are like plum trees that grow crooked over standing pools; they are rich and o'erladen with fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed on them." This descriptive and critical tone is an initial hint pointing towards Bosola's possible role as the commentator of the play, demonstrating Webster's thoughts and opinions. Aside from the descriptions of the characters, their relationships in the first scene are also presented as far from amiable. The most distinct relationships are those of the Duchess between her two brothers Ferdinand and the Cardinal. The Duchess is apparently under constant domination of her brothers, which is shown through their attempts to convince her not to marry, and her persistence in claiming her right to decide. "Diamonds are of most value, They say, that have past through most jewelers' hands. Whores, by that rule, are precious." The fact that she not only disagrees with her brothers, but attempts to justify her opinions was highly unusual for a woman in that social context. ...read more.


The murder of both the Duchess and Antonio, the only characters who showed significant love and honesty, shows a lack of any hope for good to survive in a world of corruption. Moreover, the way in which Webster challenges social and gender inequalities through these two characters raises considerable political points, and the murder of these characters also gives the sense that Webster feels that these political points will remain unjustified. Another instance that presents the idea of lack of hope in good overcoming evil is shown in the change of character that Bosola goes through. After the murder of the Duchess, Bosola appears to feel guilty and regrets what he has done, showing signs that he may turn out heroic to a certain extent in fighting the battle against the other corrupt characters. Bosola too, however, becomes tangled further in a web of murder, and ultimately is killed himself. Throughout the play, Webster explores many themes which appear to be relevant to his society at the time, whether it be the nature of the court, or the general conventions in society. It is arguable that 'The Duchess of Malfi' to a certain extent is based upon the world in which Webster lived in; it can therefore be argued that as Webster chooses to create a world in which evil prevails over good whether people are alive or dead, he too sees his own world as "utterly bleak". - 1 - ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level John Webster section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level John Webster essays

  1. Corruption in "The Duchess of Malfi"

    or his parting "Farewell, lusty widow," hints at some sexual desire for his sister. His emotive outburst when he finds out about her marriage to Antonio is full of pain filled proclaims that he would "have their bodies burnt

  2. In The Duchess of Malfi, Act II Scene I, Bosola says to the Old ...

    The 'places in court as like beds in a hospital', they are rotten and sick and the 'rank pasture' that Ferdinand speaks of directly relates corruption with the land. The rotten and corrupt land is destined to rot and corrupt others.

  1. What impression does Webster create of courtly life in Malfi? How would a contemporary ...

    He is clearly an irritant to the smooth world of courtesy in which his hearers exist. On his exit, we see Delio immediately breaking into malicious gossip, as though to downgrade Bosola's comments: 'I knew this fellow seven years in the galleys for a notorious murder...'

  2. How and where does the Duchess distinguish herself as a very remarkable woman in ...

    Her wretched na�vet� in failing to see through Bosola's duplicity and over-trustful innocence in being conned so easily arouse a strong sense of compassion and pity. The Duchess says in a soliloquy that she does not care if she will be remembered to have "winked" or chosen a husband without

  1. Explore the ways in which Webster introduces his characters and themes in the play ...

    The description of the French court by Antonio gives way to a less positive account of the mores in the duchy of Malfi. The rhyming couplet below explains that it is vital for a country to have fair noble leaders, else the badness would filter down and infect the whole

  2. Critical opinion about the ways Webster presents the Duchess is divided. Some critics blame ...

    However in Act 3, Scene 2 her boldness is shown to aggravate Ferdinand and it can be seen as a weakness in her character. When Ferdinand enters her chamber, the audience would gasp and be afraid for the Duchess, however she is bold and brave, showing little fear of her

  1. John Webster - Theatrical Language

    Whilst using this concept, Webster may have had other playwrights in mind, for instance Shakespeare. (Hamlet) * Ferdinand is used as a mouthpiece for the publics feelings about the role of women in society. * Webster uses myth and legend in the form of Lycanthrope.

  2. The Duchess Of Malfi - Commentary On Important Scenes

    a rotten and dead body, we hide it in tissue" Act II, Scene IV Julia: Adds interest to the play / Adulterous partner of the Cardinal Has her emotions played with like a pet Representation of the seamy underbelly of deception within the Court amongst nobles She is the femenine

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work